'Project code-named Humpty': Creation, Destruction and Reconstruction. An art and archaeological science collaboration.

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bradford
Department Name: School of Engineering and Informatics


'Project code-named Humpty' [P c-n H] is a narrative art process, conceived by artist Kate Johnson in response to the wider goals of the 'Fragmented Heritage' [FH] project, awarded to archaeological sciences at the University of Bradford, under the umbrella of the theme: Digital Transformations. It is a project, delivered in 'chapters' bringing artist and archaeologists into a shared creative and scientific arena.

A 10' high figurative sculpture has been created by the artist in clay. It will be cast in a uniquely developed material suitable for deliberate fragmentation over a precipice, with the purpose of yielding fragments which have not been influenced by an internal metal armature. Archaeologists will retrieve the fragments as if from an archaeological site and manually reconstruct the fragments, informed by innovative reconstruction and digital visualisation technologies they have developed on the FH project. When taken at face value, creating a monumental sculpture only to break it into pieces with the goal of putting the pieces back together again might seem a frivolous venture. Although the project involves some degree of risk, a frivolous undertaking it is not. P c-n H functions formally and conceptually and in its entirety, it is designed to allow for multiple layers of interpretation. It promotes reflection on our relationship with the objects we make, the nature of manual skill in a technological age as well as the nature of value and of beauty in relation to the art object. It concerns the paradoxes of human behaviour today and throughout the archaeological record. It will serve to strengthen the wider legacy of the Digital Transformations theme to the wider public as well as to heritage practitioners, curators, object handlers and excavators. P c-n H touches the core of the AHRC's ethos in supporting projects serving to enhance 'understanding of our times, our capacities and our inheritance'.

In collaboration with Project Partner Bradford UNESCO City of Film, short films will be made documenting the process of the piece at each stage. The making of these films will give the artist and archaeologists opportunities for collaboration outside of academia. Engagement with the wider public will occur through the screening of the films in an open city space reaching an expected footfall of a minimum of 30,000. A live fragmentation/fragment retrieval event at Swinden Quarry accommodating a crowd of between 500 and 2000 people will incorporate crowd participation through music and the event will be filmed.

P c-n H extends themes in contemporary art and importantly contributes to the growing genre of art and archaeology collaborative ventures whilst embracing wider interdisciplinary and non-academic communication.

Planned Impact

Society, beyond the heritage beneficiaries of the Fragmented Heritage Project outputs, will gain an understanding how archaeologists collect and organise fragments prior to reconstruction. The public will also learn how digital technologies and visualisation tools are used by archaeologists to reconstruct fragments of a monumental scale piece, with figurative complexity and how they inform manual reconstruction. Dissemination and impact will be achieved through documentary film screening, a live fragmentation/fragment retrieval event, high quality interactive website experience, outreach presentations and public display of the actual reconstructed piece with its associated story will be sought.

Research communities will benefit from the project as a process which bridges the divide between the arts, humanities and sciences. Papers will be presented during and following the project in AHRC wide theme activities organised by the Digital Transformations fellow. Other workshops are planned, for example, at the University of Durham, to discuss the dynamics of an art and archaeology collaboration from the perspective of both disciplines. Opportunities will be taken to discuss the degree to which the art piece extends the concerns explored in recent contemporary art, for example, through an invitation to speak at the Ilkley Art Festival in October 2017. Art practitioners will benefit from the visualisation potentials the project reveals.

In partnership with Bradford UNESCO City of Film, and through the UNESCO website gateway, P c-n H will contribute to the international discussion on humanitarian issues associated with Heritage preservation and reconstruction issues in a changing world. Educational packages building on documentary film footage will be disseminated to schools in the Yorkshire region serving as a tool to engage a younger audience in such issues.

P c-n H requires materials research and development in addition to the employment of manual skills to create a mould, casting material and to cast the monumental sculpture. Techniques will be shared with the public through filming of each process and through workshops. Any new materials development would serve to broaden options for the 3D practitioner.

The potential for international distribution of P c-n H has arisen from discussions with Commissioning Editor, Holly Squire, to publish four short articles over this duration of the project in the online journal The Conversation UK. This journal is a springboard for other media organisations.

P c-n H offers crowd engagement in the art process itself at the fragmentation event. Microphones attached to the audience would allow for possible psychological examination of crowd response to the event as well as feeding into a musical soundscape.


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Title Piece mould 
Description A 35 part piece mould using a combination of jesmonite, urethane and silicone. 
Type Of Art Artefact (including digital) 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact Mould making processes formed part of 'Project code-named Humpty' Chapter 3 
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xl1hot-zBVU
Title Proect code-named Humpty Chapter Three 
Description A brief film documenting key stages of the research project 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact Public broadcast Inclusion in website 
URL https://vimeo.com/285546693/996cb19dde
Title Project code-named Humpty Chapter One 
Description A brief film documenting key stages of the research project 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact Public broadcast. 
URL https://vimeo.com/258160872
Title Project code-named Humpty Chapter Two 
Description A brief film documenting key stages of the research project 
Type Of Art Film/Video/Animation 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact Public broadcast 
URL https://vimeo.com/265257094
Description Open workshop during mould assembly 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact Co Investigator described the project to 25 prospective undergraduate students attending an Open Day at the University of Leeds and also to several visiting academics from East Asia.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
Description Public screenings of research activity 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Three short films which document the research progress are screening at random times in Bradford Centenary Square as the project develops. To date the films have screened for 123 hours reaching an estimated 'footfall' of 50,000 people to date.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018,2019
URL http://www.bradford-city-of-film.com/big-screen/